Mike Shula has never been considered a brilliant offensive mind. He’s spent the early days of his career living in the shadow of his legendary father. Shula has been with the Carolina Panthers since 2011, when he was hired as their quarterbacks coach; he was promoted to offensive coordinator after Rob Chudzinski was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Shula is considered to be a more conservative play-caller than Chudzinski, who provided a heavy dose of the read-option last year. The case could be made that the Panthers ran too much read-option last year. The team wasn’t able to develop a rhythm because so few snaps were taken from under center. Shula plans to de-emphasize the read-option, but not eliminate it. Cam Newton’s evolution as a passer will be the key to creating a more explosive offense.
There are also reports from Carolina that the offense will be simplified and more uptempo under Shula. Newton seems pleased with Shula’s changes, specifically pointing out the shortened play calling verbiage. “Twins Right, Key Left, 631 Smash M sounds completely different than Twins Right Tampa,” said Newton, comparing a call that formerly signified the formation, protection, pass concept and backfield action with the new terms.
A comfortable Newton is a more confident Newton. Besides Newton, Shula will have a plethora of weapons to choose from. The backfiled is loaded with the likes of Deangleo Williams, Johnathan Stewart and Oregon rookie Kenjon Barner. A return to a solid running game will make Newton’s life easier, as will the emergence of a second receiver. Shula hopes that either Ted Ginn Jr. or Brandon Lafell can join Steve Smith as a threat on the outside for Newton.
If Shula can get the best out of Newton and company, it could mean a trip to the playoffs.